Behind another big effort from all-star guard Michael Jordan -- and taking advantage of another small effort from Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone -- the Bulls accomplished their mission of stealing a game at the Delta Center with a 93-88 win in Game 2 of the NBA finals.
The Bulls tied the best-of-seven series at 1-1, with the next three games to be played in Chicago. That gives the Bulls a chance to win a third straight title on their home court as they ended a three-game losing streak to the Jazz that extended back to the regular season. The Bulls also ended a streak of four straight road losses in the playoffs.
"We were just trying to get one win," said Jordan. "It was a matter of executing down the stretch. There was pressure on them to play a lot better. We got in the same situation in the fourth quarter [as in Game 1], and we executed."
Jordan, who finished with 37 points, scored what proved to be the winning points with 47 seconds left. But it was Chicago guard Steve Kerr who provided the game's biggest play.
Kerr didn't do it with a shot, as he missed four of his five attempts in 27 minutes. He did it with a rebound, his only one of the game.
With the Bulls trailing by 86-85 with just under a minute left, Kerr pulled up for a three-point attempt that bounced off the rim. But Kerr followed his miss and, beating John Stockton to the ball, grabbed the rebound. He then fed Jordan for the layup and a foul -- the three-point play that put the Bulls up for good.
"That play Steve Kerr made, three guys jumped at him to not allow that shot and then he gets the rebound and Michael gets a three-point play," said Utah guard Jeff Hornacek. "I thought Steve Kerr's play killed us."
Said Kerr: "It's ironic, isn't it -- I got maybe my first rebound of the series. It was just a lucky play. I missed the shot, the ball bounced right to me and I was wide open."
And that was the story of the night for Chicago, getting second-chance opportunities. The Bulls had 18 offensive rebounds, scoring 19 points on second chances.
And that disturbed Utah coach Jerry Sloan, whose streak of 60 straight wins when taking a lead into the fourth quarter ended. Taking a three-point lead into the fourth, Utah wound up hitting just four of 15 shots (26.7 percent) over the final 12 minutes.
"I thought we lost our ability to compete against them," said Sloan. "We never disrupted any of their rhythm, and they're a rhythm team."
Speaking of rhythm, that's something that Karl Malone did not have last night. Malone scored 16 points, but missed 11 of 16 shots. The second-leading scorer in the league during the regular season, Malone missed both of his shot attempts in the fourth quarter and failed to score a field goal in the second half. He spent much of the night content to shoot jumpers.
For the series, Malone has made just 14 of 41 shots (34.1 percent) and is averaging 18.5 points. Malone had been averaging 26.5 points on 45.8 percent shooting going into the series.
As for the Jazz, it was one a rare fourth-quarter collapse during the postseason. Utah had shot 55.8 percent from the field through the first three quarters before its fourth-quarter struggles.
"This is a great defensive team," Sloan said. "It's difficult to get shots you always want. They were the aggressors all night, and that was a reason why we couldn't break on them."
The Bulls had to be happy with the contribution of Dennis Rodman, who had nine rebounds off the bench -- all in the second half. Rodman also made his only shot, a jumper in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 74 with 7: 44 left.
"Sure, he took everybody by surprise when he took the shot," Jordan said. "But he made it, so we have to pat him on the back."
With Scottie Pippen scoring 21 points, and Toni Kukoc adding 13 off the bench (all in the second half), the Bulls got enough contributions from different areas to show that talk of Chicago's demise was premature.
"A lot of people talked about our age and how many minutes I'm playing," Jordan said. "But we're here, and we beat some good teams to get here. I believe in what we can accomplish, no matter what disadvantage people might think we have."
Chicago vs. Utah
(Series tied 1-1)
Game 1: Utah, 88-85, OT
Yesterday: Chicago, 93-88
Tomorrow: at Chi., 7: 30 p.m.
Wednesday: at Chi., 9 p.m.
Friday: at Chi., 9 p.m.*
June 14: at Utah, 7: 30 p.m.*
June 17: at Utah, 9 p.m.*
TV: Chs. 11, 4
Pub Date: 6/06/98